Carlisle Borough and Community CARES Collaborate on Temporary Shelter Operation
April 10, 2020
Carlisle Borough and Community CARES announced this week that the Stuart Community Center located at 415 Franklin Street has officially transitioned into a temporary shelter operation. The temporary transition was necessary in order to assist the nonprofit emergency homeless shelter’s mission to provide services to those living without a permanent shelter or who are at risk of losing their shelter in Cumberland County.
“What began as a call for a portable handwashing station installation at CARES to assist with hygiene needs due to the pandemic grew into a more in-depth conversation on the homeless community’s lack of access to hygiene and social distancing issues within the CARES facility”, stated Borough Manager Susan Armstrong. The call, which was initiated by CARES Executive Director Beth Kempf to Armstrong and Emergency Management Coordinator Chief Jeff Snyder, was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Kempf’s concerns and desires to follow the vital guidelines and order set by Governor Wolf for social distancing and sheltering in place while addressing basic health necessities. Several calls followed between the two entities’ staff, the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Council.
CARES residents are sheltered daily by many generous local churches and organizations. The new guidelines related to COVID-19, however, required for the residents to be in one place. A short-term solution to the crisis was provided by the American Legion who immediately opened their doors to the residents. While continuing to meet the daily demands, the CARES team needed a longer-term temporary shelter operating around the clock every day. CARES Executive Director Beth Kempf stated, “A number of facilities were explored as potential options for our temporary operation and in the end, the Stuart Community Center met CARES immediate and ongoing needs during the CV-19 crisis. We needed space for sleeping quarters, bathroom and shower facilities, and an area for cooking. The Stuart Community Center checked off all the boxes. We are extremely grateful to the Carlisle Borough and to the community as a whole for assisting in this collaborative effort.”
Armstrong explained that since early March, the Stuart Community Center, in compliance with Governor Wolf’s guidelines, had been closed to the public and all programming postponed or cancelled for the foreseeable future.
Deputy Mayor Sean Shultz stated, “We have a moral obligation to meet the needs of this vulnerable part of our community. Due to the Community Center being underutilized at this time, the decision to provide temporary shelter to those in need made perfect sense.”
Mayor Tim Scott commended both the CARES agency and Borough staff for their efficient mobilization efforts. Mayor Scott noted, “EMC Chief Snyder went into action making a request through the proper channels for specific items, like cots. Within days, the cots were delivered, set up, and being used by residents at the Center as of April 8. Moreover, within 30 hours of being notified of the transition, Borough staff had an action plan in place to relocate from the Stuart Community Center and transfer all necessary IT related equipment, files, etc. to their new temporary home, Town Hall. The Parks and Recreation staff met the challenge and stepped up quickly when called upon. Once CARES received the keys, relocation efforts were underway.”
According to Kempf, in addition to the Stuart Community Center temporary shelter, a “comfort center tent” will be available 24/7 in the CARES Resource Center parking lot at 50 West Penn Street for those who are not currently CARES residents but who continue to live without shelter or access to hygiene needs. Water, snacks, toiletries and towels will be available. Showers will also be available Monday through Friday from 9am – 12pm. To reserve a time slot for a shower, call 717-249-1009/Option 3. Social distancing will be enforced.
Speaking on behalf of Borough Council, Deputy Mayor Shultz stated, “Government is often criticized for being slow to react. In this instance, the Carlisle Borough government was able to respond within a matter of days of learning of a need. This is a great example of how our organization has once again stepped forward to be part of a solution.”
Community CARES will utilize the space until such time that the Stay at Home Order and potentially other restrictions are lifted. Inquiries about programs, ways to donate monetarily or with meals or items can be directed to 717-249-1009/Option 3. Items may also be dropped off at the Stuart Community Center seven days a week.
Kempf concluded, “This community has been so generous in caring for its vulnerable populations. Thank you to the Borough for stepping up so quickly to help those without a shelter.”